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Colombia News Brief for September 15, 2021

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Welcome to LAWG’s Colombia News Brief, a compilation of top articles and reports on issues of peace, justice, human rights, and more in Colombia.

Source: Pedro Szekely/Flickr 

SPOTLIGHT

Executive Summary – Independencia judicial en Colombia
Campaign for Judicial Independence, September 14, 2021 
“Judicial independence is a fundamental tenet of modern democracies and has been threatened by authoritarian governments that seek to consolidate power in the executive branch and that seek to avoid review of their actions by a co-equal branch of government. In Colombia, judicial independence has been under attack during the current administration, which has been in power since August 2018. In response, several civil society organizations came together in September 2020 in the Campaña por la Independencia de la Justicia. The objective is to muster broad support for judicial independence from diverse social and political forces, both in Colombia and internationally.” Here is the full report in Spanish.

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Colombia’s Troubles Put a President’s Legacy on the Line
Carlos Tejada and Julie Turkewitz, The New York Times, August 30, 2021
“Iván Duque swept into Colombia’s presidency in 2018 as a young, little-known technocrat riding a surging right-wing movement. He tapped public anger against a peace deal that he said had treated the country’s deadly insurgents too softly. And he warned that the proposals of his left-wing opponent could stifle steady growth. Three years and a global pandemic later, it is Mr. Duque who is presiding over high unemployment and an angry electorate — and who is on the defensive about the steps he has taken to tame persistent violence by militants.”

¿Qué garantías tendrán las curules para la paz?
Martin Cruz Vega, La Silla Llena, 30 de agosto de 2021
“Las Circunscripciones Transitorias Especiales de Paz son una conquista de la sociedad colombiana y del Acuerdo de Paz, construido en la ciudad de La Habana entre el Estado colombiano y la insurgencia de las extintas Farc-EP. Es el Segundo Punto (2.3.1.1.): Participación Política para Construir la Paz, del Acuerdo Final. Deliberarán en la Cámara de Representantes por un tiempo de ocho años. En dichas Circunscripciones de Paz solo podrán inscribirse los candidatos por las organizaciones de víctimas, organizaciones campesinas u organizaciones sociales, incluyendo las de mujeres y grupos significativos de ciudadanos”.

Curules de paz: Corte inició revisión con pedidos de víctimas y recusación
El Tiempo, 12 de septiembre de 2021
“El 25 de agosto pasado, el presidente Iván Duque ordenó promulgar el Acto Legislativo 02 de 2021 que creó las 16 Circunscripciones Transitorias Especiales de Paz en la Cámara de Representantes, que fueron pactadas en el acuerdo de paz firmado con las Farc, tal y como ordenó a finales de mayo pasado la Corte Constitucional. Al fallar una tutela, la Corte dijo en esa ocasión que la reforma constitucional inicialmente votada en 2017 en el Congreso, bajo el procedimiento de ‘fast track’, sí obtuvo la mayoría necesaria. Ahora, como se trata de una iniciativa aprobada por ese método expedito, la misma debe volver a la Corte Constitucional para su revisión”.

Colombia’s army recruiting war victims ahead of elections: report
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 13, 2021
“Colombia’s army is recruiting war victims who could represent the military in Congress after next year’s elections, local media reported Sunday.”

Colombia’s ex-President Andres Pastrana defends efforts to build peace
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, August 31, 2021
“Colombia’s ex-President Andres Pastrana said on Tuesday his government had laid the ground work for building peace in the South American country, even though he did not reach an agreement with leftwing guerrillas and rightwing paramilitaries. Pastrana, who governed Colombia between 1998 and 2002, became the fifth ex-president to testify before the country’s truth commission, which was established as part of a 2016 peace agreement with the now-demobilized rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).”

What peace deal? Colombia’s coca regions remain at war
Joshua Collins, The New Humanitarian, August 31, 2021
“Since the FARC disarmed and joined the government as part of the peace deal, other groups have moved into territory it formerly controlled, including in Catatumbo. While crime rates in urban centres such as Medellín and the capital, Bogotá, have fallen dramatically in recent years, violence in the countryside has risen.”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Eln pide que “cesen los operativos” para liberar militares secuestrados en Arauca
El Colombiano, 14 de septiembre de 2021
“La guerrilla del Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) confirmó que secuestró a un sargento y un soldado del Ejército en el departamento de Arauca, fronterizo con Venezuela, a los que liberará ‘en los próximos días’. En un comunicado, la guerrilla aseguró que tiene en su poder al sargento segundo Fabián Andrés Espitia y al soldado Elvis Andrés Flores, que pertenecen a la fuerza de tarea Quirón, una unidad terrestre del Ejército que opera en esta zona y en el departamento de Norte de Santander”.

Explosiones en campo petrolero de Barrancabermeja
El Heraldo, 13 de septiembre de 2021 
“Dos explosiones se registraron en zona rural de Santander en la noche del pasado domingo. Los estallidos, que provocaron fuego a eso de las 11:50 p.m., tuvieron lugar en el campo petrolero La Cira – Infantas, ubicado en el corregimiento El Centro, en Barrancabermeja. Los responsables de la detonación de estos explosivos serían los integrantes de la guerrilla del Eln, según afirmó el general Fernando Navarro, comandante de las Fuerzas Militares”.

The Urabeños’ Venezuela Gamble May Be Failing
InSight Crime, September 2, 2021 
“The Urabeños, also known as the Gulf Clan (Clan del Golfo), have reportedly struck an alliance with the Rastrojos, which control much of the drugs, weapons and people moving along trochas, remote trails that criss-cross the border. This partnership seemingly aims to fend off the inexorable advance of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) at the border. However, it also gave the Urabeños a foothold inside Venezuela to shelter and hide from Colombian operations against them.”

Triple homicidio en frontera con Venezuela aviva tensiones con Colombia
Panam Post, 29 de agosto de 2021
“El comandante de la Policía de Cúcuta, general Óscar Moreno, dijo a los periodistas que el crimen ocurrió en un sector conocido como Puente León, donde las autoridades encontraron ‘una persona herida con arma de fuego y tres personas muertas’. ‘El enfrentamiento que sostienen el ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) y el Clan del Golfo (principal banda criminal de Colombia) nos deja este resultado negativo que afecta la tranquilidad de los ciudadanos en el sector rural’, dijo el oficial, que no precisó quiénes son las víctimas mortales ni a qué se dedicaban”.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Colombian Gen. Mario Montoya faces murder charges in ‘False Positives’ killings
Samantha Schmidt, The Washington Post, August 25, 2021
“Montoya appeared in court to be formally charged with murder for allegedly overseeing and incentivizing the killings of 104 civilians, including five children, according to the country’s attorney general. The retired general, who commanded the army between 2006 and 2008, is the highest-ranking military officer to face accountability in the scandal that continues to haunt the country nearly five years after a peace deal ended decades of armed conflict. The charges, pursued by an attorney general closely aligned with President Iván Duque, could signal that the government is now willing to come to terms with one of the darkest aspects of its military’s history, said Adam Isacson, director of the Defense Oversight program for the Washington Office on Latin America.”

Colombia adopts new version of tax law that sparked deadly unrest 
Agence France Presse, September 15, 2021
“Colombia on Tuesday adopted a tax reform plan that was at the root of violent anti-government protests that left more than 60 people dead this year, but was eventually reconfigured to be kinder to the middle class and the poor. President Ivan Duque signed the so-called “social investment law,” which has as its stated objective to combat poverty in a country hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic.”

Defendamos la paz llama al cese al fuego y de hostilidades
Defendamos la Paz, 14 de septiembre de 2021
“Faltando pocos meses para que se lleven a cabo los comicios, hacemos desde la pluralidad que representamos, un llamado a los grupos armados del país para que cuanto antes -y como lo han hecho en otras oportunidades- anuncien a Colombia un cese unilateral al fuego y de hostilidades que tenga los más amplios alcances, que salve vidas, ahorre sufrimientos y recursos en los territorios donde hacen presencia, y que permita a la ciudadanía participar libre y democráticamente en las elecciones que se avecinan”.

Duque firmó la reforma tributaria, con la que subirá cobertura de ingreso solidario
Semana, 14 de septiembre de 2021
“El mandatario destacó la llamada Ley de Inversión Social, como ‘la transformación social más importante del presente siglo en Colombia’. Se trata de 15,2 billones de pesos que se espera recaudar en 2021, con lo cual, se pretende cubrir a 29 millones de colombianos, integrantes de 7,8 millones de hogares, con una estructura de protección, además de la pretensión de ayudar a estabilizar las finanzas públicas de Colombia. El punto clave de la política social que apalancará la plata de la reforma tributaria es el programa Ingreso Solidario, a través del cual se otorga una transferencia monetaria a las familias más vulnerables del país”.

Repression of Colombia’s National Strike Continues Amid Post-Accord Violence
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, WOLA, August 30, 2021
“The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) has received various reports from Colombia since our last urgent action, which include: the repression of the national strike, spates of massacres, mass episodes of internal displacement, plights of social leaders, abuses against labor unions and activists, securing justice for extrajudicial killings, ongoing abuses against ethnic communities, political violence, and other pressing matters. These are summarized below.”

ENVIRONMENT

The industries causing the climate crisis and attacks against defenders 
Global Witness, September 13, 2021
“Since 2012, Global Witness has been gathering data on killings of land and environmental defenders. In that time, a grim picture has come into focus – with the evidence suggesting that as the climate crisis intensifies, violence against those protecting their land and our planet also increases. It has become clear that the unaccountable exploitation and greed driving the climate crisis is also driving violence against land and environmental defenders. In 2020, we recorded 227 lethal attacks – an average of more than four people a week – making it once again the most dangerous year on record for people defending their homes, land and livelihoods, and ecosystems vital for biodiversity and the climate.”

Colombia repitió como país con más ambientalistas asesinados en 2020 
Prensa Latina, 13 de septiembre de 2021
“De los 227 asesinatos de defensores del medioambiente documentados en el mundo en 2020, 65 ocurrieron en Colombia, considerado el país más peligroso para los ecologistas por segundo año consecutivo, reportó hoy Global Witness. De acuerdo con la organización radicada en el Reino Unido, en 2020 asesinaron como promedio a cuatro activistas y defensores de tierras y ecosistemas por semana, lo que lo convierte en el año más letal desde que comenzó a investigar y exponer violaciones de los derechos humanos y medioambientales en el sector maderero, petrolero y minero en 1993”.

Environmental defenders killed in record numbers in 2020: Report 
Steven Grattan, Al Jazeera, September 13, 2021
“‘The situation in Colombia is of particular concern,’ Laura Furones, senior advisor at Global Witness, told Al Jazeera by email. ‘Global Witness recorded more killings of land and environmental defenders in Colombia in 2020 than anywhere else in the world for the second year in a row. Killings rose sharply from 2017 and 2018, and the country accounted for 29 percent of all documented killings in 2020.’ The rights group added that both floods and droughts are likely to increase in Colombia, which is at high risk of climate change impacts according to the UN. ‘Despite this, the government continues to pursue an economic growth agenda based on land-intensive industries – Colombia is currently the fifth-biggest exporter of coal and has significant oil, gas and palm oil sectors,’ she said.”

Derrame de petróleo tras ataque a oleoducto en Barrancabermeja, Santander
El Espectador, 13 de septiembre de 2021 
“En la noche de este domingo actores desconocidos atacaron con explosivos el oleoducto de Ecopetrol, ubicado en el corregimiento El Centro, de Barrancabermeja. El hecho derivó en un derrame de petróleo en suelos y la vegetación aledaña que ya fue controlado y no generó afectación a personas, aseguró Ecopetrol. La empresa también rechazó las acciones violentas contra su infraestructura”.

The Roots of Environmental Crime in the Colombian Amazon
InSight Crime, September 1, 2021 
“The Amazon Basin is being ravaged at an accelerating rate by organized criminal groups and “legal” enterprises alike, as deforestation soars and biodiversity suffers. Illegal mining, logging, wildlife trafficking, land grabbing, coca cultivation, and other activities stoke rampant deforestation and biodiversity loss across the region, with members of local communities often approached by criminal networks to clear thick swaths of trees or ensnare endangered species.”

DRUG POLICY

The wars for Colombia’s cocaine containers | Part 2: Barranquilla 
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 13, 2021 
“Caribbean city Barranquilla has seen a surge in violence as illegal armed groups are vying for control over Colombia’s seaports and container terminals. According to the medical examiner’s office, 204 people were murdered in the largest port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast in the first seven months of this year,  a 20% increase compared to the same period in 2020.”

The wars for Colombia’s cocaine containers | Part 1: Buenaventura
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 2, 2021
“Local youth took to the streets on Saturday to reject the latest wave of violence that has victimized approximately 80% of the city during decades of government neglect and corruption. The protests surged despite claims by the police chief of the Valle del Cauca province, Colonel Jorge Urquijo, who said a week before that more than 260 alleged gang members from Buenaventura have been arrested and more than 4,000 kilos of cocaine have been seized in the port city so far this year.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Venezuela wants jailed envoy to take part in talks with opposition
Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen, Reuters, September 14, 2021
“Venezuela National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez said on Tuesday that the government would name Alex Saab, who is currently jailed in Cape Verde on U.S. money-laundering charges, as a member of its delegation at the dialogue process taking place in Mexico. Saab, a Colombian businessman, was arrested last year in the African archipelago nation on an international arrest warrant related to the 2019 U.S. charges. Venezuela said shortly after his arrest that it had conferred Saab diplomatic status.”

Cúcuta habilitó censo virtual para vacunar a migrantes venezolanos, así funciona
El Espectador, 13 de septiembre de 2021 
“Se estima que hay más de dos millones de venezolanos en el país, de los cuales el 44 % estaría en condición de irregularidad. A estos últimos ciudadanos se les dificulta el acceso a la vacuna contra el Covid-19 por carecer de un documento de identidad proporcionado por el Gobierno Nacional. ofrecer a los migrantes indocumentados la vacuna contra el coronavirus así no tengan un documento de identificación expedido por el Estado colombiano”. 

“El fin de la dictadura es a través de una elección presidencial pronto”: Duque sobre diálogos entre gobierno de Venezuela y oposición
Semana, 7 de septiembre de 2021 
“El mundo está a la expectativa de los diálogos entre el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro y la oposición venezolana que se está llevando a cabo en México y el cual cuenta con la mediación especial de Noruega, Rusia y Países Bajos como observadores. Sobre esos encuentros que podrían definir el futuro político de Venezuela se conoció la reacción del presidente de la República Iván Duque quien aseguró por medio de un mensaje de su cuenta de Twitter que se debe acabar la señalada dictadura liderada por Maduro con una convocatoria a elecciones presidenciales lo antes posible”.

Colombia has Venezuelan, Haitian and Cuban migrants. Now Duque is preparing for Afghans.
Samantha Schmidt, The Washington Post, September 5, 2021
“President Iván Duque said the decision ‘unites us in the protection of human rights, the protection of women and, of course, being with our allies when they need us.’ The U.S. ambassador in Colombia, Philip Goldberg, said the announcement ‘underscores the compassion of the Colombian people toward those in need.’ But as the country prepares to receive the Afghan families — for a temporary stay fully paid for by the United States — Colombians have described Duque’s decision less as an act of solidarity than a bid to improve his image with the United States.”

* The Colombia News Brief is a selection of relevant news articles, all of which do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Latin America Working Group.